Tireless advocate named CASA’s top volunteer

"Volunteering gives me a purpose, and it's so rewarding," says Nancy Mann, who has been named CASA's volunteer of the year. (Submitted photo) 

HANCOCK COUNTY — When Nancy Mann retired from her job as an executive assistant a few years ago, she knew she wanted to give back to the community she calls home.  

In 2017, she became a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, to see if she could make a difference, and she has. 

Mann has been named the volunteer of the year for Hancock County CASA, a group of people who represent the interests of abused and neglected children in the county.

"Someone once told me your life is divided into three parts; the first is to learn, the second is to earn and the third to return," Mann said. "That has always stayed with me."

Now that Mann is in the "return" portion of her life, she’s trying to do just that and focus on helping others, particularly a child in need. 

"I’m glad to be doing something for my community," Mann said. "In the case of the child I am currently advocating for, I know I’m making a real difference in her life."

CASAs like Mann try to be a steady and consistent presence in children’s lives due to the fact most children who come from abusive situations have multiple people coming and going in their lives.

"Within the system, the child I work with has had multiple case managers and therapists, but I have been the one person who has not changed over the years, and this child knows I’m not going anywhere," Mann said.        

Marciann McClarnon Miller, CASA program director, said Mann has worked tirelessly to advocate for the child she works with and has been a shining example of giving back. 

"She has left no stone unturned in order to make sure everything possible is done for this child," McClarnon Miller said. 

From working to make sure the child had reading glasses to attending school recitals and programs in support of the child, Mann has shown up for the youngster when no one else was there. 

"I don’t care if she moves to a different county or whatever, I’m always going to be there for her," Mann said. "I think she looks at me almost like a grandmother, and I’m good with that." 

Thanks to her experience in the executive world, Mann also has a great ability to work with the Department of Child Services, school personnel, counselors, attorneys, foster parents and anyone who touches the life of the child she represents. The goal is always to make sure the youngster, who is now a teenager, is safe and well-cared for.

"Nancy is small but mighty," McClarnon Miller said. "I sometimes refer to Nancy as a ‘Momma Grizzly.’ She allows no roadblocks in her way as she advocates for the best interests of this child."

Currently CASA has 42 active volunteers advocating for children in the child welfare system. CASAs work with the agencies and the courts to be sure the children have a voice.

"They have a servant’s heart and work many hours with no monetary compensation," McClarnon Miller said. 

While selecting just one person for volunteer of the year was a difficult task — since all the volunteers deserve the award — McClarnon Miller said Mann was chosen because of her above-and-beyond advocacy on behalf of a child she’s been working with for almost four years.

"She makes sure her child is safe and always advocates for the child’s best interest," McClarnon Miller said. 

While volunteer work isn’t for everyone, Mann noted after she retired there was more time in her life to help others. 

"Volunteering gives me a purpose, and it’s so rewarding," Mann said. "Winning this award, though, was never a goal of mine. I was just doing my job, so I’m very honored and humbled to receive it."   

As of 2020, over 200 county children had been removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect, yet dozens more are in need of help. Anyone wishing to volunteer or learn more about the program can visit casahancockcountyin.org. 

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As of 2020, over 200 county children had been removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect, yet dozens more are in need of help. Anyone wishing to volunteer or learn more about the CASA program can visit casahancockcountyin.org.